It all began one bright, sunny Saturday in late May, 1989 when a number of Trentonians boarded a bus, sponsored by Branch 110, Royal Canadian Legion bound for Toronto to enjoy a day of Celtic Music.
Among those in attendance that day were, Mayor Neil Robertson, Alderman Lloyd George, Alderman Valerie Thompson, the President of Branch 110, Mr. Ron Bryson. As we watched the bands parade into the venue and enjoyed a full afternoon of music of the Pipes and Drums from various southern Ontario RCL Branches, it soon became evident that an event such as this could be held in the City of Trenton.
At that time, the City did not have a major Fall Season Event. We had a Summer Festival and a Winter Carnival and of late, there had been some strong suggestions that one was needed.
“But what”, many of us wondered. The following Monday, I was summoned to the Mayor’s Office where we reviewed what we had seen on Saturday and it soon became apparent that we had found that Fall Event.
However, I was not prepared for the following dialogue between the Mayor and myself: “We could do that here (meaning a Celtic Festival)” the Mayor said with much glee!
To which I replied, “and your Worship, who exactly is “we”? “You”…he replied with that typical charming way he had for coercing people into doing things that were originally his idea but soon became yours.
And so, the idea of a Celtic Festival in downtown Trenton was born. Needless to say, I was in shock when I left his office. I knew how to organize an event of this size, but I knew very little about Pipe Bands and even less about where to find them. However, I did know people who had this knowledge and soon, very soon, a lot of telephones were ringing as I sought out relatives, friends and acquaintance to help.
The following week, the Mayor called a small meeting of interested citizens of Celtic heritage to discuss the possibility of hosting a festival in Bayshore Park, in early September of the following year (1990).
The Council of the Day pledged their support to this idea as did, Branch 110, Royal Canadian Legion, 413 RCAF Association and Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
Now it was up to this small Founding Committee consisting of:
• Mayor Robertson
• Alderman Lloyd George
• Alderman Valerie Thompson
• Ron Bryson
• John Croxford
• Walter Gregory
• Parks and Recreation Director, Sharon Gaudaur
• Maureen Scott
To establish a Standing Committee whose responsibility it would be to put this event together, establish a Festival Mandate and then seek official approval from Council. It was decided that the Festival Organization would be divided into four parts with a Chair and a committee of volunteers responsible for :
• the Parade of the Bands through Downtown Trenton in the morning,
• a musical festival in the afternoon
• vendors who would sell only Celtic Faire
• the Festival Tent
Our main resource soon became our friends in Cobourg who had been hosting a Highland Tattoo for many years. It was at this point, that the Founding Committee agreed that our event would be a “non-competitive festival”and further, that this Festival would recognize both the Scottish and the Irish heritages with no admittance to be charged in hope that the event would be more attractive and affordable for entire families.
The Festival Mandate was brief but to the point: “ that the City of Trenton (now Quinte West,) host an annual Scottish/Irish Festival which would be held the second Saturday in September and further…” that this event promote and encourage Celtic Music through song and dance.
A Standing Committee was formed consisting of
• Maureen Scott, Chair
• Walter Gregory, Parade Marshall
• John Croxford who agreed to seek out the bands
• the late Murray Martin whose Sunday Morning Radio Show, Scotty’s Corner was to become our strongest promotion tool. (Murray in later years became “The Voice of the Festival)
• Darryl Mitten who had numerous years working with vendors during the Summer Festival
• Bob Cameron whose past experience was in organizing the popular Festival Tent.
From this Standing Committee, Working Committees were formed enlisting the volunteer help of so many of our citizens that to list them here would be an injustice to all as some names could be obviously overlooked. However, an integral part of these Working Committees would soon become the appointed Liaisons from:
• City Council
• Canadian Forces Base Trenton
• Trenton Parks and Recreation
• Department of Public Works,
• Trenton Police and Fire Departments
• Branch 110, Royal Canadian Legion
• 413 Wing RCAF Association.
I would be remiss in writing this history if I did not make special mention of the following volunteers whose years of service and dedication to the Festival has been exemplary:
• our beloved Padre Sid Horne whose words of wisdom and encouragement brought many blessings upon this Festival
• Geoff Brogden, who each year at his own expense, grew the many floral displays that graced the stage and field areas
• Karen Carroll, (better known as the “ticket lady”) who spent hours selling tickets in the Festival Tent.
Then, one year later on another warm, sunny and bright Saturday morning the sounds of 14 Pipe Bands resounded throughout the City as the first Parade of the Bands was seen and heard coming over the Veteran’s Skyway Bridge from their marshaling point in Centennial Park, through Downtown Trenton and into Bayshore Park. It was truly and unforgettable and very emotional moment for all of us. In conclusion, I would like to express my most sincere appreciation to all the volunteers of those early years, who worked so hard to see this Festival succeed. It is my hope that you still feel that same emotion that we did all of those years ago when we first saw those bands enter Bayshore Park. It should be noted here that in later years, the Festival saw tremendous success under the direction of Mr. Larry Francis and Mr. George Fraser.
Founding Chair (Thanks to Mayor Robertson)